Media monsters usually appear in cycles. Like a fashion trend, they often ride the wave of totemic success before diminishing returns and bored audiences relegate them to another period of obscurity.
For vampires and zombies, Dusk And The Walking Dead franchises led to a box office and television landscape littered with ghouls, before they recently began to disappear. But when it comes to Marvel Studios’ current Dr. Frankenstein, and his latest creation, Wonders, it’s hard not to notice the difference.
Instead of walking away naturally, this mad scientist exploits lightning: by pulling the strings of virtually every major production supporting its superhero bent, Marvel can artificially prolong the life of what would otherwise be long dead.
And when it comes to the Doctor’s eponymous monster, the cut-and-stitched creature really starts to stink.
WATCH | The official trailer for Wonders:
For Wonders, it’s not that the film is a total failure. Instead, the buddy movie has fun in space following superhero Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), the friendly neighborhood “hard light” manipulator, Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and WandaVisionMonica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is — a bit like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 before – in fact, a small course correction.
And in this film, director Nia DaCosta, a relative newcomer to Hollywood, was able to impressively solve one of the most endemic problems of the now 15-year reign of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: bloat .
But the way DaCosta and co-writers Megan McDonnell, Zeb Wells, and Elissa Karasik get around that problem proves just how completely lost the once-exciting franchise has become.
By not bothering to tackle or include many of the MCU’s plot points and focusing on the development of a single character instead of trying to cram together story, exposition, and the growth of multiple characters in a single film, its creators entertain despite Marvel’s cultural dominance, not because of it.
Avoiding the stuffy backstory contained in nearly 120 hours of connected content shows, Wonders shows that what was once the MCU’s greatest strength has turned into a clumsy, unwieldy albatross.
But the mixed success of a film with Already modest expectations at the box office doesn’t offer hope for the superhero franchise so much as it demonstrates that Marvel has overstayed its welcome at the party, making viewers pointedly cough several times before nodding for the door. Yes, it’s a great story, Marvel, but don’t you think it’s getting a little late?
That said, Wonders it starts strong. After a dizzying exposition section covering the events of Captain Marvel, Infinity War, End of Gameand the Disney+ series’ WandaVisionSecret invasion And Ms. Marvel, we get to the meat and potatoes. Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers) still drifts alone in self-imposed interstellar isolation, brooding over all the great power and responsibility a growing superhero needs.
At the same time, teenage heroine Ms. Marvel (aka Kamala Khan) practices drawing in a room designed like a kaleidoscope of Captain Marvel fan art. And Rambeau, recently gifted with scientific powers gone awry, works repairing the exterior of a space station under the direction of Avengers Assembler Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
The MCU’s secret weapon
Soon after, the film’s conceit kicks in to kickstart the plot proper: Danvers makes the smart decision to touch a glowing space light, which turns out to be a quantum physics-adjacent space aberration that “tangles” Danvers , Khan and Rambeau. .
They become bonded together, physically changing places with each other every time they use their powers, and forced to participate in one of Marvel’s many intergalactic road films to solve the mystery and save the world.
It is this change which gives Wonders one of its greatest strengths; Although all three characters have light-based powers, they are different enough that the beautifully choreographed fight scenes drive the action.
Even if you can’t tell exactly what’s going on, watching our heroes jump from position while the camera swings wildly around various alien fighters gives a kind of simple visual stimulation as satisfying as playing a video game with your face too close to the screen.
The chemistry between the characters keeps everything moving forward. The tension between Rambeau and Danvers may seem forced, but Larson and Parris do a commendable job of confronting each other.
Meanwhile, Vellani continues to prove she’s the MCU’s secret weapon and de facto replacement for Spider-Man. Her undeniable screen presence, fantastic acting skills and always-on-point comedic timing shine as she struggles not to embarrass herself in front of her idol, Captain Marvel.
But this alchemy is far from balanced. While past Marvel productions like Eternals struggled to come up with interesting character arcs for each member of his team, Wonders take the easy route. Danvers far eclipses the other two in terms of narrative, and his journey of redemption reduces Rambeau to little more than a foil – a pathetic machine designed to highlight the sadder parts of Danvers’ arc.
Virtually all opportunities to develop Khan’s character are removed; no trace of the deep and satisfying journey she undertook Ms. Marvel stay. Instead, the most interesting of the three wonders is transformed into an (incredibly competent) comic character on the periphery of the action. Taking her family with her for an almost completely unrelated B-plot shows how Wonders is plotted more like a TV show than a movie.
While this protects it from some larger potential failures, it cripples the story and confirms an extremely disappointing third act (would have been plagued by reworks and rewrites) which stamps Wonders as adequate, but not much more.
But comparing it to the rest of the MCU, that’s not really a criticism. The mediocre successes of THE wonders are still successes.
The solid performances, often genuinely funny jokes, and serviceable plot make it more worth it than anything Marvel has released since. End of Game. All of this, combined with some phenomenal battle scenes (and a chuckle-worthy musical number), means it should work quite well with younger audiences.
That said, Wonders is basically like someone bitten in a zombie apocalypse that hasn’t turned around yet. Sure, you’re not a reanimated corpse yet, but we’ll still have to put you down eventually.